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All comments by Karen Walker
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And I played the word GRUE in Words With Friends last week. Not a big scorer in that game, though.
May 4, 2012
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I'm with Adam. It was once considered a superior approach to open 1C with 5-5 in the blacks and a minimum (with reversing values, the “proper” opening was 1S). That was back when the opponents stayed out of your way and allowed you to open 1C and rebid 1S and/or 2S. With today's bold preempts and raises, more and more players soon got tired of losing the spade suit and abandoned this approach.

Its other flaw, as Adam points out, is that it's almost impossible to describe a 5-6 hand, which is the main reason you would want to back into a high-level auction like this one.
March 4, 2012
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You are a very talented writer, Dana. And a cat lover … perfect combination :)
Feb. 24, 2012
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I once had a kibitzer who, after the session, asked me to identify some of my opponents. Some of her descriptions were a bit vague: “Who was the man who bid 4H?” and “How about the woman with the red purse?”

When she asked about “the cute, furry guy with the big smile”, however, I knew exactly who she was talking about.

Congratulations, Mike!
Jan. 18, 2012
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Yes, I'd run the NAP and STAC games because the players like them and sanction fees are reasonable ($1 and $1.50 a player). I'd pass on most of the worldwide and ACBLwide games because our players balk at paying an extra $3.50.

Most of our locals are ACBL members because they enjoy, but are not obsessed with, measuring their successes with masterpoints. They also like the magazine, the chance to win trips to NABCs in the North American Pairs and GN Teams, the lower entry fees at tournaments, and even the OfficeMax discounts.
Jan. 16, 2012
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Interesting topic. I've run a sanctioned club for 30+ years and chaired local regionals for 20 years, so I can sympathize with both sides.

The extent of the problem varies with the size of the community. Bigger cities have more clubs that are full-time businesses, and for these owners, the frequent tournaments – and their “cheaper”, more plentiful masterpoints – can be crippling. Some Units and Districts compensate club owners who cancel their games during a nearby regional. In other areas, local clubs may continue to run regular games because their clientele includes a good number of non-ACBL members.

In smaller communities like mine (100,000 population), there's far less competition and masterpoints don't seem to be the main draw. Although the standard of play is relatively high at my club and almost all of our players are ACBL members, I think they're more interested in seeing friends and having a good time than in accumulating loads of masterpoints.

There are only a handful of annual regionals within driving distance (3+ hours) of my town, so our annual tournament is a big deal for our players. Our local club has five people who run their own games, and although none of us rely on it as a significant source of income, we need to pay the rent. We all take a hit when we close the club during the regional.

As tournament chairman, I try to make sure the other club owners get some benefits. They all volunteer at the tournament, so they get free entries and a fancy dinner. The club gets all the leftover food and drinks from the hospitality suite. And our lost income is somewhat offset by bigger games in the weeks before the regional, when our locals go into practice mode and play at the club more often.

Regarding ACBL's treatment of club owners, I haven't had the same experiences as Randy. It's true that the sanction fees for some special games are steep, and although ACBL doesn't share the fees with club owners, we profit from the bigger games we get for these events. We're especially fortunate because our Unit covers sanction fees for NAP, STAC and ACBL-wide games.

I agree with Dan D. that cost is an issue for club players. It's true that the typical club entry fee is a bargain when compared to other entertainment, but I know that if we raised our fee (currently $5), we would lose players. It's would be impossible for ACBL to create a fairer playing field by imposing a minimum rate for entry fees, which was suggested by another poster. What standardized fee would be fair for clubs in New York City and Podunk IL?

As Gavin pointed out, the increase in the number of tournaments has exacerbated the problems for clubs – and for the tournaments themselves. ACBL once scheduled NINE regionals (seven east of the Mississippi, including ours) over Memorial Day week, plus a “one-year-only” sectional 150 miles away. Six years and six complaints later, they finally moved the sectional to a different weekend.

I thought this stacking of tournaments had abated in recent years, but evidently not. Three regionals in Toronto in seven months? It strikes me as ACBL getting way too greedy for sanction fees.
Jan. 15, 2012
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A big plus I forgot to mention was the city itself (thanks for the reminder, Danny!) and the work the locals did to handle all the details, especially in such a short time frame. Really nice that some hometown players earned medals as a reward, too.

Many people thought Las Vegas should have gotten the bid because it would have been more of a “destination city”, but I think Philadelphia was a much better choice for “serious” bridge. There was plenty to see and do there, and it was a shorter flight for most foreign players. I really liked the pretty downtown area, easy public transportation, historic sites and restaurant options. Thanks to Danny, Jo, Joann and everyone else who did all that work.
Oct. 20, 2010
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Good thoughts. I agree that all the accoutrements were first class, but the entry fees were outrageous. Table screens and a hallway full of plasma TVs weren't worth $75+ a day to me. I also thought it was overkill to use screens in the qualifying rounds. Those sessions would have been more enjoyable (and faster) with everyone at regular, screenless tables.

I always thought the theory was that “old folks” liked the morning-afternoon schedule. I've never liked it at any age, and not just because I'm not a morning person. The afternoon sessions ended so late that it was always well after 10:00 before we finished dinner, and I don't like going to sleep right after a meal. If the organizers insist on that schedule, I'd prefer a very short break and an earlier starting time for the second session – ideally, at the same times every day. The Mixed Pairs had a different starting time for every single session.

In the few interactions I've had with WBF directors in the past, I've found more than one who were petulant, arrogant and sexist. I didn't have any interaction with them this time and didn't hear any major complaints, so I hope that means the WBF has cleaned house.

The web site was, and still is, clunky and hard to navigate. It's impossible to find the names of team members. The Daily Bulletins were great.
Oct. 19, 2010
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Great writeup, Jason and good point by Warren. Anyone who is familiar with Sontag's career would probably guess that he would have made very different decisions if this hand had been played earlier in the day. In recent years, we've seen many important events decided by 11th-hour errors. Two of the most publicized were Lorenzo Lauria's lapse in the 2003 Bermuda Bowl and Rosenberg's slam defense on the final board of the 2000 Vanderbilt.

Great players make mistakes, but they're most frequent and costly when fatigue sets in. Even with a six-man team, playing high-level bridge for six straight days takes a toll. The USBF events are more grueling with the marathon round-robins and nine-day schedule. The use of screens makes each hand even more mentally and physically tiring.

One solution would be to trim the schedule for the NABC team events to five (or even four) days, with half-day matches the first two days. A better option, however, is to set and enforce time limits. There's nothing more exhausting than slow play (theirs AND ours). “Bridge is a timed event” – or so we're told in the rubber room – and making decisions at a reasonable speed is one test of bridge skill. No matter how important the event, there's no excuse for allowing a 32-board segment to drag out to 5 or 6 hours.

There may not be a solution that will please everyone, but I'd really like to see the organizers make an effort to turn these events into true tests of skill rather than endurance.
Aug. 3, 2010
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North can't count on partner having a 5-card minor, and even if we have the scramble available to find our better fit, playing in a 4-3 (or even a 5-3) with the long hand being forced will probably be a minus score.

It does, however, look to North like there are good chances for a plus score if declarer can be forced early and often. I would pass and try to find the tap suit by leading a diamond. It doesn't happen to work on this deal, but give South as little as AJ9xx (king in dummy) and it could well be +300.
July 15, 2010
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Good article on an interesting topic. Interpreting these signals can sometimes be a war of wits, as declarer also has to judge whether or not one or both opponents are giving honest signals. If West is looking at 14-15 HCPs, he knows partner will never be on lead, so there's no point in providing an echo that may help declarer. That brings up the possibility that West has chosen to play his lowest club from a holding of Q107, Q97 or Q1097.
July 9, 2010
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